2022 FINA WORLD AQUATICS CHAMPIONSHIPS
- June 18-25, 2022 (pool swimming)
- Budapest, Hungary
- Duna Arena
- LCM (50-meter format)
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Check out the post that follows to find out the Swammy Award winners on the men’s side from the 2022 World Championships. Based on performances in Budapest, we’ve named the men’s Swimmer of the Meet, Swim of the Meet, Nation of the Meet, Junior of the meet, Clutch Relay Swimmer of the Meet, Breakout Swimming of the Meet, and Storyline of the meet.
Swimmer of the Meet: Leon Marchand (FRA)
Leon Marchand was the man of the meet thanks to his double-gold, triple medal haul at the 2022 World Championships. If it weren’t for the legendary Michael Phelps, Marchand would have had one of the most impressive swims in history when he posted a 4:04.28 400 IM. That swim made him the second-best man in history, trailing Phelps’ 4:03.84 world record from 2008 and surpassing Ryan Lochte‘s 4:05.18 from 2012.
Marchand entered 2022 with a best time of 4:09.65 in this event and finished 6th overall in this event with a 4:11.16. So this swim was a major breakthrough for Marchand in the 400 IM and rocketed him to the status of 2nd-best in the history of the event. In just two years Marchand will likely swim this event in front of a home crowd at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
A 4:04.28, as otherworldly as it was, might not be Marchand’s ceiling in this event and left many people wondering if he’s going to be able to crack Phelps’ record at some point in the next few years. The Arizona State University just wrapped up his first season in the NCAA training under Phelps’ famed coach Bob Bowman, which provides a potential explanation for why he had such a meteoric rise this year in the 400 IM.
The 400 IM was Marchand’s first win of the meet but he didn’t end there. Marchand re-matched with 400 IM silver medalist Carson Foster in the 200 IM and this time the battle was a little bit closer. In the 200 IM, Marchand clocked a 1:55.22 to collect his second gold medal of the meet and his second French record. The swim wasn’t quite as high in the rankings as the 400 IM but it made him the 6th-fastest man in history.
He got within 0.04 seconds of Laszlo Cseh‘s 200 IM European record, which sits at a 1:55.18, and is now less than a quarter of a second away from reaching the 1:54 range. Only two men in history have pulled off that feat in world record holder Ryan Lochte (1:54.00) and Michael Phelps (1:54.16). The other two men in the top 4 are Wang Shun of China with a 1:55.00 and Kosuke Hagino from Japan with a 1:55.07. So Marchand is now within 0.22 seconds of the 3rd-fastest man in history and could be looking at a 1:54 in the next few years.
Marchand didn’t limit himself to the IM events in Budapest as he also contested the 200 butterfly. Marchand started off reserved in the prelims of the 200 butterfly with a modest 1:56.38 for 11th place overall. In the semi-finals round of racing, he improved by roughly two seconds to a 1:54.32, placing 4th to move on to the finals round. Once it was do-or-die, Marchand kicked it up a notch and swam his way to a silver medal in a 1:53.37, narrowly defeating Japanese swimmer Tomoru Honda who hit a 1:53.61.
Just like the IM swims, that butterfly performance from Marchand was a new French record and got him into the top 10 list all-time as the 8th-fastest performer. Marchand was not as close to the world record here as he was in his other events considering that butterfly all-star Kristof Milak threw down a 1:50.34 world record in lane 4 of the heat.
Marchand’s double IM victory and butterfly silver was a showstopping 3-swim performance and comfortably made him our pick for the swimmer of the meet.
- Kristof Milak (HUN): The #2 man on our “Top 15 Swimmers of the Meet” list was world record-breaker Kristof Milak. Swimming in front of a home audience, Milak had one of the swims of the meet when he posted a 1:50.34 in the 200 butterfly final to take out his own world record in that event. He’s the fastest man in history in this event and nabbed gold by more than three seconds in this event. Milak also clinched gold in the 100 fly with a 50.14 and threw down a 46.89 freestyle split on Hungary’s 4×100 free relay, which were also superb performances by the Hungarian all-star.
Swim of the Meet: Thomas Ceccon (ITA), 100 backstroke final
The third day of racing at the 2022 World Championships seemed like it would be just another day of high-level racing. Katie Ledecky would win yet another 1500 freestyle, perhaps Lilly King would make a comeback in the 100 breast final, and David Popovici would be on the hunt for his first world title.
What people didn’t expect was to see the men’s 100 backstroke fall. And most people certainly didn’t expect it to fall at the hands of Italy’s Thomas Ceccon. For those who have been paying attention, a world championships gold medal was probably not out of the question for Ceccon considering the fact that he placed 4th in the 100 backstroke at Tokyo 2020 and 2 of the 3 men who finished ahead of him (Kliment Kolesnikov and Evgeny Rylov) were absent in 2022. Ceccon was as in the mix as anybody, but the level of speed that he brought to this final is what gives him this award.
Ceccon swam this race in lane 5 after posting the #2 time in the field during semi-finals. It was Greece’s Apostolos Christou who seemed like he might have been on the verge of cracking 52.00 for the first time after swimming a 52.09 during semis for top seed. But once the final heat came, it was Ryan Murphy who had the opening speed with a leading first 50 of 25.02 to Ceccon’s 25.14. Christou was in third at the flip with a 25.31.
On the final 50 though, Thomas Ceccon made his presence known as he ran down both Murphy and the world record line, closing in a 26.46 to touch the wall with a 51.60 world record. That back half was more than half a second quicker than Murphy’s and got Ceccon to the wall 0.25 seconds under the former world record.
Ceccon had a best time in the 100 backstroke of 52.84 at the beginning of 2021. In 2021 he peaked at a 52.30, which landed him a 4th place finish in Tokyo. When he swam this 51.60 he not only cleared his best time coming into the meet by 0.60 but he became the fastest swimmer in the history of the event and established himself as one of our next great backstroke talents.
- Kristof Milak (HUN): As mentioned in his HM section for the swimmer of the meet, Kristof Milak had an outstanding swim during the 200 fly final when he knocked down his own world record of 1:50.73 by swimming a 1:50.34. That was a 0.39-second improvement upon his World Champs-winning time from 2019 and just extended his lead in the event over the rest of the world. Milak’s 2019 world record was a breakthrough in its own right as he became the first man to crack 1:51. But now that he’s swum a 1:50.34 he’s more than a second ahead of the #2 performer in history Michael Phelps (1:51.51) and seemingly has the potential to bring the event under 1:50 before anyone else joins him at a 1:50.
- Gregorio Paltrinieri (ITA): Gregorio Paltrinieri made our list of top performers of the meet thanks to his 14:32.80 European record in the 1500 freestyle final. Paltrinieri was already the #2 man in history in the distance event but this swim from him almost made him the world record holder. It was a return to form for the Olympic champion who hadn’t won a major international title since 2019. Paltrinieri managed to hold off the field including Bobby Finke who is known for his closing speed and gave us one of the most exciting swims of the meet.
- Leon Marchand (FRA): Leon Marchand was the swimmer of the meet for these awards and his 400 IM was a key contributor to that designation. It’s been several years since we saw a time faster than a 4:06 in this event. It was Chase Kalisz who posted a 4:05.90 to win the World Champs title in 2017. That made a 4:04.28 by Leon Marchand an incredible revival of this event and was actually Marchand’s first time under 4:09 in his career. He swam less than a second slower than Michael Phelps’ 4:03.84 from back in 2008. With this swim, the up-and-coming Frenchman who is trained by Phelps’ coach Bob Bowman reminded us that world records were made to be broken.
Nation of the Meet: Italy
Thomas Ceccon and his fellow Italian men put on an incredible performance across the 8 days of racing at the 2022 World Championships. When deciding who to award the “Nation of the Meet” award we generally look for the nation that greatly exceeded expectations and past performances to pull off an all-around exceptional performance.
Let’s start with the gold medalists.
The swim of the meet-garnering 100 backstroke performance from Thomas Ceccon was not the only instance of an Italian man topping a podium at the meet. The first man to do so was breaststroker Nicolo Martinenghi who pulled off the win in a Peaty-less 100 breaststroke. He swam a 58.26 in the final, which was an improvement upon his own best time and Italian record from his bronze medal outing at Tokyo 2020 (58.28).
Martinenghi returned to the podium later in the meet when he swam in the 50 breast final, posting a 26.48 to miss out on the gold by just 0.03. Martinenghi hit a 26.48 to trail American Nic Fink and out-swim the other USA entrant Michael Andrew who posted a 26.72 for bronze. Martinenghi was the first Italian to ever win the 100 breaststroke at World Championships and just the third Italian to medal in the 50.
The other man who took home individual gold at this meet was distance all-star Gregorio Paltrinieri. After a 4th place finish in the 800 freestyle, Paltrinieri decided that it was his turn to control in the 1500 freestyle. On the last day of the meet, Paltrineri entered the 1500 final as the 7th seed in lane 1. He took the race out faster than almost anyone has in history and spent the majority of the 1500 under world record pace. In the end, Sun Yang‘s last few laps back in 2012 were faster and he didn’t quite hit a 14:31.02. But Paltrinieri wound up with a 14:32.80 to beat his own #2 time in history of 14:33.10.
Many viewers thought for a few minutes that Paltrinieri was on the precipice of the first-ever sub-15:30 swim. While that didn’t happen, Paltrinieri’s swim was an unexpected breakthrough on the final day and a reminder of his abilities. The swim was the #2 performance and the quickest swim we’ve seen in the event since 2020.
Ceccon, Martinenghi, and Paltrinieri were the only men to get on an individual podium but another 3 men picked up medals by swimming relay finals. In the 4×100 freestyle final, Ceccon was joined by Alessandro Miressi, Lorenzo Zazzeri, and Manuel Frigo who came together and took bronze in the event. Miressi opened with a 48.38 and was followed by Ceccon (47.57), Zazzeri (47.35), and Frigo (47.65) who brought Italy to a 3:10.95.
But on the last day of racing Italy closed out the meet this a sensational swim when they won the country’s first-ever World Championships title in the men’s 4×100 medley. Newly minted world record-holder Thomas Ceccon opened up with a 51.93 to show his first sub-52 swim was no fluke. That got Italy into the lead by more than half a second as Ryan Murphy came second with a 52.51. Nicolo Matinenghi (57.57) out-split Nic Fink (57.86) on the breast and then Federico Burdisso was a bit slower than Michael Andrew with a 50.63 to Andrew’s 50.06. To end the race Alessandro Miressi hit a 47.48 freestyle leg to get into the wall ahead of Ryan Held‘s 47.36 free split. The time of 3:27.51 from the Italians was enough to tie the European record and earn gold. That’s a total of 3 individual champions, an individual silver, a relay gold, and a relay bronze.
Italy also had several men qualify for individual finals including Lorenzo Zazzeri in the 50 freestyle (5th, 21.91), Alessandro Miressi in the 100 freestyle (8th, 48.31), Marco De Tullio in the 400 freestyle (5th, 3:44.14), Gabriele Detti in the 1500 freestyle (6th, 7:47.75), Simone Cerasuolo in the 50 breaststroke (26.98, 5th), Thomas Ceccon in the 50 butterfly (22.86, 5th), and Alberto Razetti in the 200 butterfly (7th, 1:55.52).
- The American men performing well at this meet was slightly less surprising than the Italians as they routinely top the medal table at major international meets. But even by their own standards, the American men had a strong showing in Budapest as they collected 20 medals in 14 different men’s events. Nearly every man on the team collected a medal at the meet and they came together to win gold in 2/3 of the relay events.
Junior of the Meet: David Popovici (ROU)
David Popovici was the clear winner of this award considering that the took gold in two different events and was the youngest man to top a Worlds podium in either the 100 or 200 free. Popovici had a major swim in the form of a 1:43.21 world junior record and then followed up with a 47.58 to win the 100 free. That 47-mid was a solid performance but Popovici actually performed better during semi-finals when he hit a 41.13 world junior record.
Any time a junior wins two medals at a senior international meet it’s worth noting, but Popovici’s electric speed is even more impressive considering that he’s only 17 years old. He still trails the world records in his signature events of 46.91 and 1:42.00, but the young gun from Romania will be on the hunt for those marks in the coming years.
- Pan Zhanle (CHN): Pan Zhanle was one of few juniors at the meet to get into a final. In the 100 freestyle, Pan swam a 47.79 for 4th overall and was one of 4 men to crack the 48-second barrier. He also contributed to China’s 8th place finish in the 4×200 free relay, hitting a 1:45.71 anchor leg as the fastest man in the heat from the country. China also finished 8th in the 4×100 medley relay and Pan hit a 48.61 to close out that relay for China.
- Aside from Popovici, Ksawery Masiuk was the only other junior male to get on an individual podium in Budapest. Poland’s Masiuk swam in the 50 back on the last day of racing and hit a 24.49 for bronze. When Justin Ress originally got disqualified he was bumped up to silver but then Ress was reinstated as the champion and Masiuk wound up the third-place finisher. Masiuk has swum 0.01 seconds quicker during prelims to establish a new Polish record. He also qualified for the 100 back final and placed 6th overall (52.75).
Clutch Relay Performer of the Meet: Michael Andrew (USA)
Michael Andrew of the USA had some solid individual swims and brought home medals in the 50 free, 50 fly, and 50 back at this meet. But what also made him stand out in Budapest was his butterfly split on the men’s 4×100 medley relay. When Dressel was absent and the team was in need of a replacement butterflier, Michael Andrew stepped up. Swimming in the third position against Italy’s Federico Burdisso, Andrew delivered a powerful split of 50.06 to almost bring his swim into the 49 range.
Andrew outpaced Burdisso by 0.57 seconds and nearly got Ryan Held the lead he needed to run down Alessandro Miressi on the last leg. Andrew’s swim was among the fastest in history and came just when it was needed most.
- Ryan Held (USA): While Michael Andrew had one massive split at this meet, Ryan Held pulled multiple key splits for the American men in Budapest. His strongest split was in the 4×100 freestyle relay when he swam a 46.99 as the second man on the team, which contributed to the USA’s gold medal swim of 3:09.34. He returned to swim the anchor leg of the men’s 4×100 medley and while he wasn’t under 47.00 there, he had an important split of 47.36 to out-swim Alessandro Miressi’s 47.48 for Italy. Held’s time wasn’t enough to overtake the lead for Team USA, but it helped the team to a silver medal finish. Held’s third relay swim of the meet was the opening split of the mixed 4×100 freestyle when he was the only man to crack 48 seconds with a 47.93 to start off. Despite his early lead for the USA, Australia and Canada managed to claim gold and silver by the end but Held’s split was the strong start they needed to stay in the race and on the podium.
Breakout Swimmer of the Meet: Josh Liendo (CAN)
Considering the number of absences at the 2022 World Championships, there was still a high number of stars hitting best times and new names making some impressive improvements. Josh Liendo from Canada is our breakout swimmer of this meet, having gone from not qualifying for any finals in Tokyo in 2021 to qualifying for 3 finals and placing in the top 5 of all of them.
Liendo notched a 47.71 in the men’s 100 freestyle final to clinch 3rd overall and he got onto the podium in the 100 butterfly, also taking bronze, with a 50.97. Liendo nearly made it 3-for-3 at this meet in the 50 freestyle but was just off the podium with his swim of 21.61 to Maxime Grousset‘s 21.57 for bronze. Liendo broke the national record in the 50 freestyle and is working his way towards Brent Hayden‘s 100 freestyle mark of 47.27 from 2009. In the 100 butterfly his bronze medal swim was a touch away from the 50.88 he swam earlier in 2022.
Liendo’s 3-3-5 finish at this meet was a huge step up from last summer when he finished 18th in the 50 free, 14th in the 100 free, and 11th in the 100 butterfly. He was certainly the star of the Canadian men’s team, which has been out-performed by the women over the past few years. Liendo looks to be rapidly improving and might be in the mix for medals at the fully-loaded Paris 2024 Olympics in 2 years.
- Maxime Grousset (FRA): Maxime Grousset is not new to the major international scene and has represented France at meets such as the European Championships, World Junior Championships, and World Championships in 2019. He won medals at all of those meets but never landed on a senior international podium. At the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Grousset swam a 47.72 to place 4th in the 100 freestyle but made a step forward in Budapest when he medalled in both the 50 and 100 freestyle. Grousset hit a PB in the semi-finals of the 100 free with a 47.54 and then took silver in the final with a 47.58. He also medalled in the 50 free by swimming a 21.57 for bronze. Grousset got onto two podiums at this meet and will be a sprinter to watch in the lead-up to his home Olympics in 2024.
- Lewis Burras (GBR): Lewis Burras has been having an entire breakout year in 2022 at he threw down a 47.88 back in April. That made him among the fastest entrants in the 100 freestyle heading into Budapest. He was a little slower than his best in the 100 freestyle final, hitting a 48.23 but the advancement into the third round of racing was a step up of the Brit. Burras also made the 50 free final with a 21.83 and contributed to the prelims of Great Britain’s 4×100 medley relay, splitting a 47.90 freestyle leg in the heats.
Best Storyline Not Already: Paltrinieri Figures It Out
Three times makes it a pattern. Bobby Finke pulled off the same strategy 3 time in 3 different distance freestyle finals before someone decided to counteract it. At the Tokyo 2020 Games Bobby Finke asserted himself in both the 800 and 1500 freestyles by closing both races with outstanding speed and overtaking the field.
He closed his 1500 freestyle with a 25.78 and his 800 with a 26.39. Those swims were the only last 50s in either heat that were quicker than a 27.00 and led to Finke become a double Olympic champion. He became known then for his sneaky ability to overtake the field with 50 meters to go. He used this strategy for a third time at Budapest 2020 when he swam a 25.93 on the last lap of the 800 free to go from 4th at the 750-mark to first.
One of the victims of that Finke move was Gregorio Paltrinieri from Italy who was 3rd at the 750 but then fell to 4th when Finke soared to victory. Paltrinieri was bumped off the podium and would be absent from the pool until taking to the 1500 freestyle final.
In the prelims, Paltrinieri swam far over his best time with a 14:54.56 to qualify in 7th place for the final. As the final was set to begin, the question that loomed was whether Paltrinieri, or anyone, would mount a strategy to out-swim the American in lane 3. And Paltrinieri was the man who did it.
The theory is simple: if Finke’s plan is to pass you on the last 50, you simply must put as much distance between yourself and him on the first 1450 so that even with a 25-low, he couldn’t catch up. That’s exactly what Paltrinieri did here when he started off with a massive 1:53.97 200 split to be the only man under 1:55. He was swimming under world record pace from the jump and it became clear that he didn’t want to give Finke any leeway. Paltrinieri continued accelerating and eventually got to a point where he flipped more than two seconds under world record pace.
At the 1450 mark Paltrinieri split a 14:04.11 to Bobby Finke‘s 14:10.60. That’s a 6.5 second gap compared to the 2 second gap that existed between them at that point at Tokyo 2020. It’s unclear whether Paltrinieri knew just how fast he was swimming, but it’s certain that his quick pacing paid off even without breaking a world record. Finke could not surpass Paltrinieri and “only” managed to run down Germany’s Florian Wellbrock. Paltrinieri touched first with a 14:32.80, Finke was second in a 14:36.70, and Wellbrock followed in a 14:36.94.
The time from Paltrinieri was exceptional as the number 2 time in history, but the most notable thing in the race was that he escaped the Finke-ing. It was the first time since Tokyo 2020 that a distance swimmer held off Finke’s last-minute attack and it has opened the door for more to attempt the front-end strategy that Paltrinieri pulled off here. Having some drama in distance events only make the multi-minute races more exciting and we’re grateful to Paltrinieri for creating anticipation for the next major international distance showdown.